Backstage with George Montague

Fresh from supporting musical comedian Tim Minchin at the Eden Project, George Montague introduces to the ‘fuzzrop’ genre, and reveals plans to play Jools Holland’s grand piano and drink tea on the moon.

So George, tell us about yourself.

Well my name is George Montague and I play just about anything I can lay my hands on musically, but normally you’ll find me singing on the piano, guitar or ukulele. I have been gigging officially for about two-and-a-half years, but it’s been a decade in the making.

I have a superb backing band comprising of Tom Hooper on drums, Steve Amadeo on bass – and for the more meaty venues – Paul Bond on guitar. They’re all brilliant musicians and we have a great laugh together. Music is what they live and breathe – we speak the same language.

And what’s your link to Gloucestershire?

I moved to Gloucester in 2000 and absolutely love it here, while the members of my band are from London and even further afield, so we do get about.

How would you describe your style to readers?

I would call it ‘fuzzrop’. I used to spend a long time umming and ahhing about my genre; until I decided to jumble together the styles many people likened me to into one short and sweet George-ism. The result was ‘fuzzrop’, which combines funk, jazz, rock and pop.

How far has ‘fuzzrop’ brought you so far?

Well, my debut album Have you met George was released in April 2012, just before I turned 21. I suppose in a way I am signed, but like most artists nowadays, signed to myself.

On the first album I really just wanted to be a piano man as it’s my favourite instrument, but now when playing live, a lot of my new tunes are on guitar and ukulele – I like to move around a bit, keep it fresh and the sounds changing.

Who do you often get compared to?

Recently I have been compared a lot to Ben Folds Five, which is very flattering as he’s such a talented man.

My main influences and inspirations would definitely come from Chris Martin, Jamie Cullum, Newton Faulkner and OneRepublic’s frontman Ryan Tedder – all of these guys are fantastic songwriters and performers in my eyes.

And who comes to see you perform?

I’m lucky to get a really mixed audience. All generations seem to enjoy what I do, and say it makes them want to get up and dance.

The wonderful support I receive from fans, old and new, is really humbling. One thing I aim to achieve when performing is to make at least one person smile, maybe even laugh – for me then I feel that I’ve done my job. Entertainment is what I like to bring.

And what’s your favourite venue you’re played at in Gloucestershire?

I have a few. I adore New Brewery Arts in Cirencester; its Brewery Blues events are brilliant, and always make me feel like I’m playing a mini amphitheatre, as the audience is on three sides and above you.

I also play great gigs at The Frog and Fiddle in Cheltenham. And although it’s only an annual venue, Wychwood Festival was spectacular this year – the BBC Introducing stage rocks, the team were awesome, and I really loved playing there.

I also recently played on the Renishaw Stage at Nibley Music Festival, which was superb – thanks to Steve Knibbs for that!

Wow, you’ve played a lot of local venues. Is there anywhere you’d really like to play in the future?

Gloucester Guildhall would be pretty sweet. And Cheltenham Town Hall is a lot of fun to play – nice and big with a very tempting grand piano!

I am also rather taken with the idea of doing a show at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. I’ve performed on the main stage in shows before now, but not yet with my music… soon, maybe.

What was the best local gig you last went to, and who else do you rate in the county?

Like a lot of guys I’ve spoken to recently, us musician-types rarely get out to see other gigs. It’s only when I’m supporting, somebody is supporting me or at a festival that I get to see some of the excellent talent we have in Gloucestershire.

The best gig I’ve been to recently would have to be Benin City, a band I supported at Cheltenham Underground, at The Frog and Fiddle – they had great energy. The lead singer/rapper, Joshua Idehen, is a really nice guy and they have a sweet set up with some brass, bass, guitar, drums and keys – although they aren’t a local band, that gig was stunning.

As for local acts, I caught the end of Ben Maggs’ set at The Cotswold Show and thought that he worked the crowd well. And if you enjoy someone singing pretty much any popular song that you pretend not to know but secretly love, the skiffle pop trio Thrill Collins totally rock it up with just a guitar, double bass and cajon.

We couldn’t agree more. So who would you most like to support?

I’ve always wanted to support Coldplay. They are superb live and put on phenomenal arena shows. Failing that, the comical and music genius that is Tim Minchin, which I kind of already did at his Eden Sessions concert when I played the Eden Project in June this year. That was amazing.

Wow, lucky you. What do you get up to when you’re not making music?

I don’t think I ever stop, to be honest. Whatever I’m doing, I’m running through lyrics or chords in the background. I do film and edit together music videos and live footage for YouTube, which I really love. Although if I’m kicking back, I like watching a good film, reading, drawing, playing the Xbox, and going for brisk country walks… though I always tend to drift back over to the piano!

Have you ever thrown a TV out of a hotel window, and would you like to?

Not yet. If I knew that it was well and truly finished, and was falling into a skip or something to help prevent any mess or danger to others, then yes, that could be controlled fun. Though I’m more of a put-the-kettle-on-and-make-spaceships-out-of-Star-Wars-Lego type of guy.

And have you ever done something you really regret in the morning?

I think that I go pretty crazy at the end of a gig when I’m playing a song like ‘Hamish’ or ‘The Smoke’, and tend to just let the music take over. Sometimes I have woken up the next day, the adrenalin has all seeped away and all that’s left is a shell of my former self curled up on the mattress mouthing the words ‘Help me.’ But then I watch back the video and think, ‘Yeah, it was worth it… now can someone please pass me the Nurofen!’

Can you recommend one album to our readers you don’t think they will have discovered yet?

The Shins – I really do love their Wincing the Night Away album, and most people I play it to haven’t heard it before.

Although if I was ever going to recommend an album to someone, it would be OneRepublic’s Waking Up, hands down. It’s beautifully produced and the songs superbly written – for the band’s second album, it is pure magic in my opinion.

What’s your number one ambition, George?

Right now, it’s to play a grand piano on Later with Jools Holland, but after that they get kind of crazy: playing the Royal Albert Hall with a full jazz orchestra; having a kid run up to me and say, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be just like George Montague!’ I would have done that, had I met Chris Martin when I was younger.

What’s your biggest claim to fame?

I guess my biggest would be being the first artist from BBC Introducing to make it onto BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s playlist; I have been extremely well supported by the BBC team for which I am truly grateful. It’s a great feeling to turn on the radio and hear one of my songs being played.

You’ve done so well for an artist who has only been established for little more than two years. What advice would you give to local artists trying to make it in the industry?

Write. Gig. Eat. Sleep. Drink plenty of water. Write some more, then gig some more with what you have written, and repeat until death.

Seriously though, the one piece of advice that I’ve been given many times is to keep writing; you can’t gig until you have the songs, and just like you must practice to perfect an instrument, songwriting gets better the more you do it. Write the songs, and it will make the rest much easier and more fun.

So where can fans see you perform in the next month or two?

Sadly I don’t have anything lined up locally in the next couple of months, but if you’re prepared to travel a little further, I’ll be heading down to London to play at The Water Rats on Thursday 19 and then The Bedford on Tuesday 24 July 2012.

Then I’ll be playing The Fleece in Bristol on Wednesday 25 July 2012, before returning to London to play Camden Rock on Saturday 11 August 2012. My next festival appearance will be on the Three Horse Shoes stage at The Monmouth Festival on Thursday 23 August 2012.

And finally George, where can readers expect to see you in a year’s time?

They would probably know better than me! I am really blessed that all of this is happening and in such wonderful ways. Album number two, and most of three, is written, gigged and ready to record, so I’m just waiting for the chance to lay it down.

Judging by this marvellously gentle speed of the trajectory though, the sky’s the limit, so I’ll probably be having a cup of tea on the moon.

By Shelly Elcock

© SoGlos
Thursday 19 July 2012

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